Credo: feeding body and discourse

May 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

Over 700 quotes line up the walls of Credo, an italian restaurant, which opened its doors in San Francisco’s Financial District last January with the intent to feed body and mind alike. As its name suggests, Credo, which comes from latin and means “I believe”, the restaurant wants its guest to encounter all beliefs, the good ones, the bad ones and the others. After all, beliefs are subjective.

But by encountering other beliefs than our owns, Credo hints that this mixing of ideas stimulates a healthy discourse.

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The concept is quite unusual, but highlights the strong set of beliefs of the owner, a former seminarian turned political consultant and real estate investor, Clint Reilly.

Credo’s mission aims at feeding both body and soul. These beliefs are at the core of this enterprise, from the decor, to the food served, and to the partnerships with local charity organizations.

Beliefs are expressed in many facets of the stylish restaurant. Dining tables, made of reclaimed wood from Amsterdam, illustrate the owner’s taste for craft and history. Repurposed wine bottle glasses set on the tables echo the values of reusing and smart producing.

Collected throughout the years by Reilly himself and his director of communication, the quotes featured throughout the restaurant “represent beliefs we share, and beliefs we don’t share. Some of them are absurd, some are silly and some very serious,” Mike Giffin, Credo’s manager said.

Monthly quote contests offer another means to engage dialogue with the community, to stimulate discourse and to raise awareness. “We believe in the time-honored tradition of the dinner table debate and the swirling mix of ideas that makes this country great,” explains the menu.

Going a step further in engaging the community is Credo’s charitable involvement. Once a month, Credo picks a local charity organization, and helps them get a voice and funding.

This month, Credo’s community partner is Clinic by the Bay, a locally-funded, volunteer-driven organization that provides “free primary and preventive healthcare to low-income, working uninsured adults living nearby the Excelsior, Portola and Daly City areas.”

Information about the organization is featured on the back of the menu, alongside articles about the issue at stake. A monthly newsletter is also sent to about a 1000 people. From social media for the tech savvy guests, to an easy donation line on the bill for the old-school patrons, to private fundraising events, Credo offers various ways to generate revenues for these organizations and publicize their cause.

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Cinco de Mayo: Did you know?

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ever wondered what Cinco de Mayo is all about?

To start, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day!

The holiday, celebrated every May 5, commemorates the victory of the Mexican Army over the French during the 1862 Battle of Puebla.

At the beginning of 1862, French, Spanish and English troops arrived in Mexico after Mexican President Benito Juarez  announced that debts repayments would be suspended for two years. While British and Spanish settled and left, the French, eager to expand their empire decided to stay.

While Napoleon’s French Army had not been defeated in 50 years, it was crushed by 4,000 mexican soldiers, led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza. However, the Mexican victory was short-lived. The French overpowered them and France managed to occupy Mexico until 1867.

The holiday is not a Federal holiday in Mexico, and is in fact not celebrated as much as it is here in the U.S., notably in California and Texas. Many celebrate this day with parades, mariachi music, dancing, while enjoying mexican food and drinks. Ariba-riba-riba!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Nice to Meet you Andrew Byrne

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hi folks,

So I got to know more about Andrew Byrne, the drummer man who rocks out downtown on sunny (and foggy) days with his drumming skills.

Meet Andrew. A Bay Area native, Byrne is originally from South San Francisco. You might have seen him on Powell or Market Street rocking out his drum-set.
Upon getting to know him, what we find is a passionate musician, who’s been playing the drums for 22 years and who “has never let his rock star dream die.”

Andrew Byrne, seeking pro gigs

How do you earn a living?  Drumming is my only source of income at the moment.  This brings much pleasure and self worth to my life.
I’ve seen from other Youtube videos that you play in other spots, where can people find you? What’s your favorite spot?  I also play near powell street, as well as a spot about three blocks closer to the ocean from where you saw me. (Montgomery Bart Station) My favorite spot that I have played so far is in golden gate park near hippy hill.
Besides looking for professional gigs, do you play with bands?  I have a couple of bands in the works but nothing that is established as of yet.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of them will start to see some success soon.
Who do you listen to? Who has most inspired you musically?  I mostly listen to a lot of heavy metal music but also enjoy some prog, as well as some funk fusion stuff.  Some of my favorite drummers that have inspired me over the years are Simon Phillips, Dave Lombardo, Gene Hoglan, Mike Portnoy, and Joey Jordison.
What venue would dream to play?  A sold out Cow Palace would be a life long dream come true.  I’d also really like to play the London Arena.
Outdoors v. indoors? Which do you prefer to play? “Outdoors its a bit more intimate and I can connect with my audience much better.  Indoors with a great sound system and flashy lights is probably a bit more enjoyable for me though.
To hear more of Andrew’s drumming skills, find him on youtube or look back at my previous post.
Rock on!

A bird’s eye view of the Financial District

April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

A kind soul, with a journalistic spirit shared with me some photos taken from the top of the Transamerica Pyramid during a “young professionals mixer.”

If you ever wondered what the view looks from up there, then take a look.

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And here are 5 facts about the Transamerica Pyramid that might come in handy at your next cocktail party in the Financial District.

  • Designed by architect William Pereira
  • Built in 1972 (back then it was one of the 5 tallest buildings worldwide)
  • 850 Ft. high
  • 48 floors of office and retail space
  • And a penthouse where parties sometimes take place (invite me to the next one!)
Source: Wikipedia.
Photos Courtesy of Pedro Peter Brown

Gio’s

April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Inside his restaurant, where the modern flat screens contrast with an old wooden bar back and a stuffed leopard standing above the bar, 71-year-old Gio enjoys a carbonara pasta with a glass of Negori. While sipping on his colorful Campari, Gin and sweet Vermouth concoction, he took me back in time of San Francisco history.

He is no regular in this restaurant. He owes it its name: Gio’s, an old-school bar restaurant in the heart of the Financial District. Giovanni Costabile is a short man with a thick head of hair, a perfectly trimmed mustache, a mischievous smile and tons of stories to share.

“Very few of those folks are still floating around,” said David Poindexter, a patron of 12 years who discovered Gio’s – and met Gio – “thanks” to his smoking habits, back when it was one of a few places you could smoke in.

“As willie Brown represents the political scene, Gio represents the tradition of San Francisco restaurants, Poindexter said. “Talking with him, it’s like talking to somebody from 40 years ago.”

Gio, as people affectionately call him, has been in the restaurant business ever since he came on vacation to San Francisco from his native country of Mexico. Like any other 17-year-old, he liked the freedom of being away from home. His father agreed for him to stay, in the care of his uncle, if he went to school, which he did.

He first studied English at an adult language school. He then went on to San Francisco State University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts. “I liked to draw and was good at it, so I thought I’d become a graphic artist,” he said.

Meanwhile, it was through friends and acquaintances that Gio got his first job as un underage “bar back” in what is now the Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. He then became night manager at a Tenderloin steak house.

After his studies, he got a scholarship to study graphic design at the Arts Center in Los Angeles, “but I hated L.A. and I kept coming back up here every time I got the chance,” he said, smiling.

Back in San Francisco, while he had job opportunities in the field of his studies, “it was half the pay from working in a restaurant”. So he stayed in the business that paid, and his next work place was La Strada, a fancy place on Broadway, which then was a “wonderful dining mecca,” he said. Unfortunately, he explained, the topless business started in the North Beach area, transforming the neighborhood forever.

With more restaurant experience and growing connections, he joined Bill Newsom – Gavin’s father – El Cholo, the city’s first upscale Mexican joint. But when Newsom decided to sell, Gio couldn’t buy him out.

His next restaurant venture was Giovanelo’s with pals Nello Piccinini and Joe Piccinini. There Gio worked the bar and two or three years into it, sold his share. “And there are some stories there,” he said in a raspy smoky voice, as if sorting through memories in his head before continuing on.

For a few years, he worked in the footsteps of his grandfather, a metallurgical engineer, working as a trader and later working as coal director for a Japanese company, which sent him to work in Mexico with his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, his wife got into an accident so the family returned to the US so she could have surgery.

Once back in the states, he kept on working in the international trade but eventually, in 1987, he bought with a friend what became Gio’s. He bought his friend’s share and has been here ever since.

While finishing his late lunch, around 3 p.m., Gio took the time to say goodbye to all of his workers as they ended their shift. Most of his staff have been here for a long time, friends from college, former customers and old friends from the business.

“He truly is one of a kind. His wit, his caring attitude toward both patrons and staff is what makes him special,” said Lingel Winters, a lawyer who works a few blocks away and has come here since 1987. Winters met his friends Peter Brown and Bob Brown at Gio’s for an afternoon drink and chat, as they did for a long time.

And “he hired the most beautiful bartenders in San Francisco,” Lingel Winters said as he and his two friends reminisced about the names and hair color of former cocktail waitresses.

Throughout his stories, Gio describes a different era, a male-oriented society where a two-martini lunch was the minimum, where men from all walks of life came to converse and do business deals. “It was bad manners to talk business before drinks,” said Gio with a hint of nostalgia.

But, in the last decade or so, Gio saw the impact of the new technologies on how people interacted. The early years were more fun, he said, there was no cell phones, and real interaction between patrons. And customers were loyal to their hang-out place.

Now people change jobs every few years, they choose different kind of spots. Back in the day, there were no celebrity chefs, maybe a hostess or an ambiance brought people in, he said. “People used the bar as a living room,” Gio explained.

“It is more than a bar, it is a forum for people and ideas. At Gio’s we all walk in the door and we leave where we were behind us. If we were a high-profile attorney we sit here and if we’re a delivery boy we sit on the stool there so when we come in, we’re all friends,” Peter Brown said.

For Poindexter, today’s world is lacking substance and authenticity. He finds it when he comes to Gio’s, in “that the tradition of hospitality (is) encompassed by someone like Gio. He is a loving wonderful man, giving and caring, a great human being.”

Love Spain? Love soccer?

April 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Then you’re probably watching the Classico game broadcast live.

If you’re a soccer aficionado & close to the Financial District this afternoon, stop by B44 on Belden Place. There you will find true soccer fans and mosty calalonians folks rooting for Barcelona, watching their two best national teams playing against each other while indulging on delicious authentic paella, cheese plates and wine.

The crowded Catalan bistro often broadcast soccer games, alongside other european restaurants on the little hidden pedestrian alley, which runs between Kearny and Montgomery Streets and Sutter and Pine Streets.

May the best team win!

On the Fly’s grand opening

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dozens of people were gathered this afternoon celebrating the grand opening of On The Fly‘s new store, an old-school gentleman boutique expanding to the second level of 1 Embarcadero Center.

The original space, directly underneath on the ground level is going to be custom heaven, taking tailoring to another level offering custom high-end shirt, cufflinks or chairs, while the new upper store features ready-to wear “solutions for the modern gentleman”.

I am due in next week for a tour of the new boutique… Stay tuned.

If you can’t wait for my in-depth report, go check it out, or find them on Facebook. The opening is going until 5 and featuring some single malt scotch tasting for the lucky ones or a shoe shine from A Shine & Co.

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